Friday, February 22, 2008

Rodney Mack Philadelphia Big Brass At New York Historical Society Feb. 23

Rodney Mack is a trumpeter of international acclaim. Having worked under such conductors as Leonard Bernstein, Gerard Schwarz, James DePreist, and John Williams, Mack has played with some of the world's best symphonies and orchestras. In addition to his award-winning solo work, Mack leads the Rodney Mack Philadelphia Big Brass, an ensemble of Philadelphia's top brass and percussion players. The ensemble performs at a number of top venues and with a variety of musical styles, including music by Frank Johnson, a nineteenth-century African-American performer and composer. Four of the members will be playing at the New-York Historical Society to form a brass quintet.

Francis Johnson (1792-1844) was a Philadelphia-born African American composer and bandleader. Johnson toured in the US and abroad in the early 1800s including a trip to England to perform for Queen Victoria. He was a virtuoso keyed bugle player whose band performed a mixture of classical and folk music, including groundbreaking performances with an integrated group of musicians. In an era when full-time musicians were a rarity in the United States, Johnson fashioned a career of such variety and importance that it would be the envy of many a modern musician. Even more remarkable is that Johnson was able to achieve such success against a background of racial strife that worsened even as his work progressed. The Marquis de Lafayette, on his return trip to America in 1820 was greeted in New York Harbor by Francis Johnson and his band.

[Francis B. Johnson is profiled at]

No comments: